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By Louise Morrisey
December 3, 2017
More than half of Australia’s population is made up of women. However, in our nation’s second largest industry, building and construction, women only make up 11% of the industry’s workforce. This figure drops significantly to just 1% women actually participating in building trades.
With the construction industry having such an immense impact on Australians’ daily lives–building our communities, homes, schools, hospitals, roads, offices, shops, airports and other amenities we often take for granted–it’s perplexing to think that this massive industry is missing out on the skills and talents of half the population.
Jobsite spoke to Anna Murphy, an apprentice electrician who has been working in the construction industry for almost two years. When asked about the challenges of the industry, she was clear that there are no jobs that are off limits to women–particularly as technologies advance.
“Nowadays, with new technologies, much of the heavy lifting associated with construction has been removed. It’s a question of battling against pre-existing attitudes rather than there being anything physical a woman can’t do on the jobsite.”
Whilst the industry has attempted to put into place mentoring programs to encourage women to enter the industry, the sad reality is that construction is not yet seen as accepting of women. The fact that today women who do enter the industry leave 39% faster than men seems to prove that.
Murphy continues, “I don’t think it’s a question of just making the industry more appealing to women because I’d argue that it is already an appealing job prospect. I think the next step to transforming the existing culture to be more female friendly is necessary."
“It’s very much a chicken and egg situation, but change will come as more women join the industry and as more support is given to those already in the industry. Construction is very much a ‘boys club’ but I’m hopeful that this will change in the coming years as more women enter the sector.”
There have been initiatives like Girls in Trades. However, for many young women, a career in construction is not something that they consider an option. With the social benefits of construction projects and infrastructure, there are real incentives to working in the field.
Murphy described the personal satisfaction she receives from working on projects as a massive bonus of working in this industry.
“I see great things being built every day. When I finish a project, I can honestly say I’m filled with a grand sense of achievement. On top of that, I work with great people, and I’m not stuck in an office every day – a massive win in my book!”
Despite prevalent challenges in the industry, Murphy is firm in her decision to recommend the construction industry to other women. “There are real pluses to working in construction. I’m always learning on the job, there’s guaranteed career progression, and I’ll receive a major qualification as well as develop hard skills. Probably, the most important benefit of the industry is that pay is extremely decent, something I’m not sure I’d get in other industries.
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